Exhibition | Highlights from the Dietrich American Foundation

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on February 26, 2020

Punch Bowl with View of Hongs of Canton, ca. 1790, made in China
(Dietrich American Foundation)

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Now on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art:

A Collector’s Vision: Highlights from the Dietrich American Foundation
Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1 February — 7 June 2020

A rare selection of American art from the 1700s and 1800s, including portraits of George Washington, a teapot made by Paul Revere, and silver from colonial Philadelphia. Explore H. Richard Dietrich Jr.’s vision as a collector and his foundation’s mission to share important examples of American art with the public.

H. Richard Dietrich Jr. (1938–2007) began to collect American art and artifacts for himself as a young man and later to furnish his home in Chester County, Pennsylvania. He saw his extensive collection as a tool for understanding American history, often acquiring objects by known makers or with a strong family history. In 1963 he established the Dietrich American Foundation, to which he contributed much of his wealth, energy, and time. The foundation has lent works from its collection to more than a hundred institutions, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In addition to pursuing a career in business, Dietrich devoted his time to the museum—as a patron and a member of the Board of Trustees and Chair of the American Art Advisory Committee—as well as to other public institutions in the region. The foundation’s long-term loans to the museum, including objects in this exhibition, began in 1966 and continue to this day.

The catalogue is distributed by Yale University Press:

H. Richard Dietrich III and Deborah Rebuck, eds., with contributions by H. Richard Dietrich III, David Barquist, Edward Cooke, Michael Dyer, Kathleen Foster, Morrison Heckscher, Philip Mead, Lisa Minardi, Deborah Rebuck, and William Reese, In Pursuit of History: A Lifetime Collecting Colonial American Art and Artifacts (Philadelphia Museum of Art in association with Dietrich American Foundation, 2020), 304 pages, ISBN: 978-0876332931, $50.

This book showcases highlights from the Dietrich American Foundation, established in 1963 by H. Richard Dietrich Jr. and focused on 18th-century American fine and decorative arts. Essays explore the formation of the collection and its many areas of strength, enhancing current understandings of colonial history and material culture. The volume’s coeditor, H. Richard Dietrich III, unfolds an American story of a family’s entrepreneurship and speaks to his father’s varied yet interconnected collecting interests, as well as the common threads that unified them. An array of specialists explore the scope and uncommon richness of the foundation’s holdings, of which books and manuscripts account for half. Chinese export wares, furniture, silver, fraktur, and other decorative arts, and paintings of historical importance speak in varied ways to the nature of colonial identity, while objects related to the whaling trade signal the new nation’s maritime focus.


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